Many people are understandably nervous or are unsure what to expect the first time that they meet with a family lawyer. In my practice, I provide a free initial consultation by telephone (for cases arising out of Cumberland and York counties), we discuss your situation, I provide an overview of the process, we discuss fees and court costs, and then I send you a follow-up letter of engagement and fee agreement.
After a client decides to hire me, we schedule our first attorney-client meeting and get down to work! I always request that clients try to bring certain documents to our first meeting.
Often times, when clients hire an attorney, they are either interested in starting a new action (whether an initial divorce, or a post-judgment motion), or, they have been served with papers. Sometimes, though, clients will hire counsel to thoroughly review their financial information so they can better decide how to proceed. (Is it the right time to file a modification? What will happen if I file for divorce now, what will my retirement possibly look like? Will I receive spousal support? Will I have to pay spousal support? What will I pay or receive for child support? )
Some attorneys may wait to request information from clients upfront, but the following items will be needed anyways and it is best to start gathering the information as soon as possible. (For example, what if your spouse changes your bank account password?)
In the case of an initial divorce, I normally request that clients bring the following documents (or at least start compiling them) to our first meeting:
- Your end of year paystub for the past calendar year, and your last three paystubs.
- Your end of year W2 for the past calendar year.
- Your tax return for at least the past calendar year.
- The last twelve months of bank statements from any accounts that you have joint or sole access to.
- Statements of retirement accounts, pensions, expected social security benefits, etc.
- Any other documents that you feel are relevant
In addition, I also ask clients to complete a divorce (or other family matter) questionnaire prior to our first meeting that I can review ahead of time. I find that getting all of this information upfront provides for a productive first meeting which hopefully saves in attorneys fees and saves my clients a lot of time and energy.
Family law cases are unfortunately inherently stressful life events to navigate. However, your first meeting with your attorney should not serve to create yet another source of stress. After all, you are hiring counsel to help take a burden off your shoulders and advise you how to best proceed through the family court process. You should leave your first meeting with your attorney knowing what to expect moving forward, and you should hopefully start feeling a sense of relief.
In closing, if you have any questions about what to bring to your first attorney-client meeting, you should never hesitate to ask your attorney!